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|Once in Aqaba, Jordan we did as we usually do when we get off a plane, train, bus or boat in a new country -- we checked what time it was (it case there is a time change), we exchanged money into the local currency and we fiqured out how to saw "hello" and "thank you" in the local language. There was no time change. The local curreny is the Jordanian dinar (JD). The current exchange rate is .70 (JD) to $1.00 US. This is the first country we have been in, on this adventure, in which we receive less than par in the local currency for the dollar. "Hello" and "thank you" in Arabic are "marhaba"and "shukran". We are starting to get this traveling down, aren't we?
Aqaba is Jordan's version of the sea side resort, "aquamarine center" filled hamlet. We bucked that trend and checked into an old standby of Aqaba, The Miramar Hotel. This old, but well maintained hotel, has big double rooms with attached bath, AC, and a POOL! -- for 29 JD. That's a little more than we wanted to spend, but it was worth it. The pool was a "god send", with the local beach being a dirty, nasty affair and the heat here being unbelievable. After a nice nighttime dip in the pool, we enjoyed some local fare at the hotel restaurant and called it a night.
Friday, May 25th, day 326 of our travels, we explored Aqaba. We dropped off our dirty clothes at a laundrymat, checked into a bus for tomorrow to Wadi Musa and Petra and walked around the streets of Aqaba. Our early impressions of Jordan are positive. Although slighlty more expensive than Egypt, the people are much more relaxed and the touts (who in Egypt rival those of India in terms of "the hassle") are much easier to deal with. The only minus so far is the heat! We are not sure why, but it is much hotter here than in Egypt (and we thought that was hot). Thank goodness for the pool.
Saturday, May 26th, day 327, we picked up our laundry, mailed some things home (books, clothes we didn't need, souvenirs, etc.) and took a taxi from Aqaba to Wadi Musa -- our launching point for exploring the Ancient Ruins of Petra.
Once in Wadi Musa, we checked into The Valley Stars Hotel (40 JD for 3 nights, with breakfast) and crashed for the night -- tomorrow is going to be a big day.
Sunday, May 27th, day 328 of our travels, we spent the entire day exploring the Ancient City of Petra after buying a two-day pass for 25 JD (no student discounts here). What an amazing place! Petra is definitely deserving of a top ten ranking on The Around The World Top Ten List for Top Ten Best Ruins. Carved entirely into the naturally pink rocks, the remains of the once lost Nabataean city of Petra include temples, Roman theaters, monasteries, tombs, houses and roads. From the entrance a track leads you down to the Siq -- the narrow gorge that takes you into Petra. Once inside the path narrows as the cliffs seem to close about you, and just when you least expect it, the passage widens and you catch a glimpse of the astonishing monument that dominates Petra -- El Khazneh (The Treasury). Further on, more amazing sites await you -- The High Place of Sacrifice, The Monastery, The Urn Tomb and The Theater, to name just a few.
It is tough work scrambling around the rocks and through the tombs of Petra, especially when it is hot -- and it was hot! The climb to The Monastery is 800 steps straight up! By the end of the day, we had walked a total of about 8 hours and some of it was quite tough. While inside we had the opportunity to pick up a couple of items made by the Bedouin, or desert, people -- a box made out of camel bone, a necklace made out of silver and coral. We also bought two necklaces from two Bedouin girls (even though they turned out to be brats in the end). All of these items will make fine additions for The Around The World Art Gallery.
Monday, May 28th, day 329, was another day of exploring Petra. Petra is a huge place with more than 500 tombs. You could spend weeks here and not see it all, but we feel that we hit the highlights in two days, and even if we didn't, we were so tired at the end of day two, we don't think we could do anymore even if we wanted to.
After our tough second day at Petra, we relaxed on the couch back at Valley Stars with our host, Ata, and watched Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. Why this movie? The ending scene. When they travel through a narrow corridor on horse back and come upon a massive, beautiful facade -- which is supposed to be the entrance to the chamber holding the Holy Grail -- ITS THE TREASURY IN PETRA and the long corridor is the Siq. Cool, huh? We learned that it took three months to film that part of the movie which appears for only a matter of minutes on the screen.
Tuesday, May 29th, day 330 of Lisa and Joel's Excellent Adventure, we took a service taxi (which turned out to be a huge, old Mercedes Benz) to Amman. We shared the taxi with a two Kiwis and an Aussie. It cost us 4 JD a head which isn't bad for a 3 hour ride. Once in Amman we checked into The Pasha Hotel (15 JD a night with breakfast). The Pasha is right across from The Roman Ampitheatre. We can even see it from our room. When sitting on the theatre steps, which at its peak could hold 6,000 spectators, it is easy to conjure up images of what it might have been like when it was built almost 2,000 years ago.
Wednesday, May 30th, day 331 of our travels, we hooked up wıth John, the Aussie who came wıth us in the taxi from Petra, and went to The Dead Sea. On the way we stopped at Madaba and saw a 6th century map-mosaic on the floor of the Greek Orthodox St. George's Church.
The Dead Sea (whıch is really a lake) ıs the lowest place on earth, 340m below sea level. This vast body of water has the highest salt content ın the world (more than 20% as compared wıth 5% for the world's oceans) and is devoıd of life. The hıgh salt content is due to the hıgh evaporatıon rates whıch accompany the blisterıng heat.
The experience of floatıng on the surface of the water is bizarre. You can just lay on the surface, talk wıth your friends, or read a good book -- you can not sınk! Just don't get any of the water in your eyes or mouth, and if you have any cuts or open wounds -- ouch!
Some people believe that the waters and mud of the Dead Sea have healıng properties. We aren't too sure about that, but it was kınd of fun rubbıng mud all over ourselves.
After returnıng to Amman, we ate at a local restaurant and called it a nıght.
Thursday, May 31st, day 332, we saıd goodbye to Jordan and took a servıce taxı from Amman to Damascus. Look out Syria, here we come!